New Thought and the Law of Attraction Show us How Life is Beautiful!
Leaving the world of facts and figures, we now enter an arena that sees life is beautiful: New Thought and the Law of Attraction. The Law of Attraction is the more recent presentation of this perspective. Its predecessor was (and still is) New Thought. New Thought is a philosophy of life that William James called “America’s only decidedly original contribution to the systematic philosophy of life” (A Practical American Spirituality New Thought by Alan Anderson and Deborah Whitehouse, front flap). My own introduction to this tradition came, surprisingly enough, in a parenting book I was given for the birth of my first child. The book was called Whole Child/Whole Parent and was written by Polly Berrien Berends. I had been a “wonderer” all my life, and this book really spoke to me and gave me new perspectives and ideas to ponder!
Before I go too far into explaining New Thought, let me just say that I am not trying to proselytize! Religion and life philosophy are very personal choices, of course, and if your choices make you happy, then great! Skip on over to the Good Habits area! My reason for including this section is to speak to those who might be looking for a path, as I was growing up, and who want something that is generally positive and upbeat. I also include it because it is the basis of why I feel that life is beautiful, good —the theme of this site. Enough said!
So where to begin? “Many People have never heard the term New Thought, yet most know what New Thought is. They just don’t know that they know. Ever hear of the positive thinking of Norman Vincent Peale, the seven habits of Stephen R. Covey, or the Be-Happy-Attitudes of Robert Schuller? Familiar with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy, psychosomatic illness, the placebo effect, and what goes around comes around? Acquainted with the concept of God being within each of us and in all of nature? Aware that your thoughts play a crucial role in the kind of life you experience? If so, then you know about New Thought” (The Roads to Truth by Sherry Evans, back cover).
New Thought is over a century old, and yet elements of it are found today being put forth in practically all of the various psychologies of happy and successful living. They generally leave God out of their approach, or simply call God by some other name, but the basis is the same. New Thought covers a wide range of ideologies all of which fall under the broader term, metaphysics. But all the various approaches have one thing, at least, in common—they are all in agreement that our thoughts play an essential role in our lives (Evans, back cover).
New Thought applies religious beliefs to solve the problems of daily living through persistent positive thinking and the acceptance of your indwelling divinity (Anderson, and Whitehouse, front flap). Many of the teachings are Biblically based, although it does incorporate some Eastern wisdom. As Berends points out in Whole Child/Whole Parent, the paths of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism etc…are much like rafts taking us on our crossing to where we come to know God and no longer need the words and materials that brought us there (Berends, p. xxii-xxiii). For me, being familiar with Biblical stories and scripture, it comes more naturally to use them for my inspiration. Most branches of New Thought do base their teaching on the Bible, but there is no sense of it being the only way to go, and certainly there are other philosophical influences.
Unity may be the best-known branch of New Thought. It describes itself as practical Christianity and was founded by Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, both of whom were healed of physical conditions using the methods they put forth. Myrtle was healed of hereditary TB, and Charles of a withered leg damaged as a child in a skating accident. His leg actually grew three inches! They founded Unity in Kansas City Missouri in the late 1800’s. Current Unity President Connie Fillmore summarizesUnity’s belief system as follows:
1. God is absolute good, everywhere present.
2. Human beings have a spark of divinity within them, the Christ spirit within. Their very essence is of God, and therefore they are inherently good also.
3. Human beings create their experiences by the activity of their thinking. Everything in the manifest realm has its beginnings in thought.
4. Prayer is creative thinking that heightens the connection with God-Mind and therefore brings forth wisdom, healing, prosperity, and everything good.
5. Knowing and understanding the laws of life, also called Truth, are not enough. A person must also love the Truth that he or she knows (Anderson and Whitehouse, p.25-26).
However, these stated beliefs are not doctrine per se. A recent pamphlet put out by Unity states: “Unity is more a teaching than a creed and more an attitude than a teaching. Unity is an open-ended religion. Unity does not feel that its teachings incorporate all Truth or final Truth; the search for Truth is as much a part of Truth as finding it. Unity’s teachings are more a set of directions than they are a doctrine. They are not fence posts that shut you in or shut you out; they are signposts that show you the way to Truth that you must ultimately find in yourself and for yourself (Anderson and Whitehouse, p. 26). Such a statement would likely be supported by all New Thought religions and is a refreshing departure from more mainstream religions for someone like myself! Life is beautiful!
Religious Science is another “big name” in the New Thought movement, and is the only group whose beginning was not the result of a healing! Ernest Holmes, the eventual founder, simply had a hunger for truth and studied the Bible and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” which had a profound influence on him. He also studied other New Thought leaders, Christian Larson and Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. Additionally he delved into the writings of Walt Whitman, Robert Browning, and Thomas Troward. From these minds among others, Holmes developed his form of New Thought (Evans, p.32). He later studied the mystical writings of Meister Eckhart and actually studied with Emma Curtis Hopkins. In 1926, Holmes published The Science of Mind which was considered the textbook for the Institute of religious Science and Philosophy, and although it was not his original intention, a church was formed around this philosophy (Evans, p. 33).
Interview with Lorna Levy
You saw Unity’s statements of belief above. What about the other New Thought groups…what do they believe? In her book, The Roads to Truth, Sarah Evans lists the following as being the sixteen common concepts of New Thought:
1.God is Spirit, Mind or Intelligence
2.God is Good, Wise, Loving etc…
3.There is only God and God is always present
4.God is the Creator of all that exists and creates from within Itself
5.God is a Triune Being
6.God is impersonal and impartial**
7.There are spiritual or divine laws by which God works
8.Jesus embodied the Christ consciousness, which consciousness is available to all humanity
9.Jesus taught mental healing
10.We are created in God’s image and likeness; as such our nature is good and we are divine
11.It is our birthright to partake of God’s goodness
12.We are given free agency or free will; thus we are always at choice
13.We are the means by which God expresses into the material world
14.Our thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs produce our experience
15.Heaven and hell are states of mind or consciousness
16.Evil and sin are simply mistakes resulting from ignorance and wrong thinking (Evans, p.296)
**I would disagree with the use of the word impersonal in this statement. Polly Berends states it well in her book Coming to Life, “Interpersonal it is not, yet it is very personal. That God is love, and that this love applies to each of us precisely and particularly, is a great mystery, a great reliable mystery (p.120).”
New Thought: A Perspective
The above was meant as a sort of introduction to New Thought in general, and I think it paints a pretty clear picture. At this point, I’d like to share more about my own journey with New Thought…as I mentioned, Whole Child/Whole Parent was my introduction to this whole world of ideas. Of the many references within that book, two authors that I ended up reading a lot of were Thomas Hora, a metapsychiatrist, and Emmet Fox, a Divine Science practitioner. Once I got started reading these books, I couldn’t stop! They really built up my feeling that life is beautiful! Over the past 15 plus years I have read oh so many books that would be classified as New Thought. I’ve waxed and waned in my devotion to various authors and their suggestions. For although there is much conformity in the literature, there is one primary issue on which the teachings are divided, and I have not been able to choose once and for all which approach to take! It would seem both approaches have proven successful for those who practice them, but they definitely have a different basis.
The difference is regarding our role in creating our lives. Some authors suggest we are 100% responsible for said creation and advise us to be very specific in thinking about what we want/our goals as in the popular book, The Secret. At different times this approach has appealed to me, but it sometimes feels like a lot of work! Moreover, I don’t think that I always know what might be best for me (e.g. loss of a job—you might be tempted to affirm that you get the job back, not realizing that a better, more suitable job awaits you. We aren’t always consciously aware of possibilities out there, so how can we choose them to “create”?) On the one hand, this perspective is appealing because it empowers you—I choose my life experience by consciously focusing my thoughts and consciously creating images of what it is I want. Great! But such a view can lead to callousness when dealing with the problems of others. I remember an article I read many years ago in a magazine (I think it was East/West?). There was a woman who was dying of breast cancer. She was of the mind that we create our realities and so set to work to heal herself of this condition. Her attempts were unsuccessful, however, and her friends became rather angry that she was allowing this to happen!! That article sort of tempered my thoughts on our part in creation. I still believe we have a lot more power than we understand, and healings have been experienced by enough people that I don’t doubt the possibility. However, I also think there are other factors beyond our kin sometimes that shape our lives (see bonus page Take Me To The Pilot).
Then there is the approach put forth by Joel Goldsmith and Polly Berends. This approach is less about trying to consciously create what we want in our lives and more about opening ourselves to God’s plan for us, “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard the things that God hath planned for those that love him (Isaiah 64:4).” I find this approach appealing in that it requires less decision-making, less need for knowing what we want/need. I also find it comforting to think that there is guidance for me day to day, if I remain open to it. This approach definitely is counter to the advice given by many of creating lists of goals and specific affirmations and visualizing details. One well-known (among New Thoughters, at least) practice that fits this approach is Emmet Fox’s Golden Key. The basic premise of this practice is that whenever we are presented with a problem, we turn away from the problem and think of God. Sounds simple, but it’s not always easy to do!! I have used this approach with some success, but again, it’s hard to maintain such thinking day to day!
I have come to the conclusion over the years that the difference I’ve just mentioned is not really that important. The first way is really a mental approach, and the second way is more of a spiritual approach, as I see it. Both ways work, and each way may appeal to you at different times in your life, or to different people…and that’s okay. I am currently toying with a combination of the two approaches wherein I do have a list of goals written down, but which I don’t focus on specifically each day. I think it’s essential to work out your own practice…which is likely why Scriptures don’t give straight-forward “how to” instructions!
A key element to implementing your New Thought practice—which I don’t think is mentioned above by Evans—is sitting in the Silence. Unity author H. Emilie Cady states in her classic, Lessons in Truth/Complete Works of H Emilie Cady, “If you want to make rapid progress in growth toward spiritual understanding, stop reading many books…What you want is revelation of Truth in your own soul, and that will never come through the reading of many books. Seek light from the Spirit of Truth within you. Go alone, Think alone. Seek light alone, and if it does not come at once, do not be discouraged and run off to someone else to get light (p. 38).”
The other key, in my opinion, and alluded to by the above quote, is perseverance. It’s so very hard to “pray without ceasing!” Beyond the distractions of daily life, it’s easy and tempting to try one author’s advice for a week or two and move on to another….to run, as it were, from book to book seeking Truth from the outside, when it’s ultimately an inside job! And with all the books out there the temptation is easy to understand—you want results, and when they don’t come quickly you start to wonder if it’s the approach, and off you go! Been there, done that! For me at least, even though I have not stuck with one approach and think my progress has been slowed because of it, there has been a cumulative effect in some respects….that is to say, it’s not been wasted time; I have learned along the way. And I will continue to do so.
One last aside that needs to be considered regarding the role we play in shaping our world is this….while belief in something can make it true for us (placebo effect), it is not always the case. An obvious example is that of the world being flat—though everyone knew it to be true, it wasn’t! I believe that’s the case with global warming—that is to say, it’s not happening whether you choose to believe it or not. And, really, that’s a blessing….or grace, rather….to be looked after even when your beliefs are askew! You can really start talking in circles about such things….some might say the world was flat for all intents and purposes to those that believed it was…and not to the brave few who saw past those limits. But, in my opinion, the fact remains that there was a Truth beyond the individual “truths” of belief, as far as the world itself was concerned. I’m not belittling the power of belief—there is some new science that validates the importance of our beliefs in shaping our lives, as you will soon see. It’s important to remain open to the possibilities, is my point.
Science and New Thought
For the skeptics among you, there are actually quite a few books out there that tie new discoveries in science in with New Thought ideologies. Of course, the truly skeptical will not give credence to the science or how it is interpreted, but that’s a choice we each have to make! The first book I ever read along these lines is the Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra, a theoretical physicist, and systems theorist. Written in the 1970’s, the book explores the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism. He later wrote The Turning Point which further developed his ideas. It is in quantum physics that science meets religion. “The various quantum theories coupled with the observation that the subatomic world seems to work as a whole and ‘touches’ everything at once, indicate unity within the diversity. There is no separation within the quantum world. According to Capra, the basic elements of matter are ‘interconnected, interrelated and interdependent’ and cannot be understood as isolated entities, but only as integrated parts of the whole.’ This implies that because all things are made up of subatomic particles, all things that ever have been in contact will remain in contact forever. Unity has been shown to be basic to the universe (Evans, p. 293).”
Wow! Quite a statement! From the above you might conclude that as conscious beings made up of conscious subatomic particles, the choices we make affect the physical world we see and experience. According to Physicist Fred Allen Wolf, because consciousness is able to change the actions of atoms, our thoughts can affect our bodies in both good and bad ways! To further explore this phenomenon, try reading Deepak Chopra’s Quantum Healing, or Larry Dossey’s Reinventing Medicine: Beyond Mind-Body to a New Era of Healing. It really opens your eyes to the potentials and possibilities!
Gregg Braden has also written quite a few books that bridge the world of science and the philosophical world. Braden was a computer geologist for Phillips Petroleum in the 1970’s and a computer systems designer for Martin Marietta Aerospace in the 1980’s. He has an engaging writing style, and I have read many of his books. His books explain in largely layman terms, what the latest science has to say about how the world works and our part in it. And the findings basically repeat Capra’s findings above. For me, it’s been very interesting to consider that science confirms much of my spiritual reading—it just makes perfect sense that it would come together this way! Life is beautiful! Interestingly enough, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi predicted as much in the early 1970’s, saying that when scientists finally are able to break atoms into their fundamental particles what they find will be consciousness (Evans, p. 293). Moreover, there are many prominent physicists who support the conclusion linking the basic building blocks of reality with Consciousness or God: Stephen Hawking-a leading theoretical physicist, Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, Evan Harris Walker, Professor Emeritus at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study Freeman Dyson, and David Bohm among others.
What I am left with after all my readings about the new findings in science and how they pertain to spirituality is this: “In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts, 17:28).” This correlates with Gregg Braden’s Divine Matrix, and Capra’s statement that everything is connected. This matrix is responsive to our thoughts, feeling, and beliefs. In more religious terms, H. Emilie Cady states “God is Spirit, or the creative energy that is the cause of all visible things…” as well as “…the substance, or the real thing standing under every visible form of life, love, intelligence, or power (Cady, p.29, 31).” Our dominion lies in learning how to draw from this source. And again, there are innumerable books out there that give guidance on just how to do that! Go and see for yourself how life is beautiful!
In Summary…Life is Beautiful
So now you have learned a bit about New Thought as a philosophy of life and how it is supported by the new physics. Put this together with what you read in the Mind Over Matter page, and hopefully you reach the same conclusion I have…life is beautiful! At the very least, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Indeed “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment (John 7:24)” is quite good advice as we go through our days….and the newspapers! If nothing else, I hope that each of you leaves this page entertaining new possibilities regarding the world and your life and your place in the big picture!
Addendum: New Thought and Supply
We’ve all heard stories of materialization (by which I mean pulling actual items out of “thin air”) as in the Bible story in which Jesus fed the multitudes with just a few bits of food. In more recent times there is Sai Baba of India who reportedly manifests whatever is asked of him by his guest (see Sai Baba, Man of Miracles by Howard Murphet for examples). However, one can just as easily find detractors for Sai Baba, so maybe he’s not a true example of this potential. There are other stories, however, in Baird Spalding’s Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East . These masters produced meals seemingly by magic, much like in Harry Potter movies! Now I am really a practical person, but possibilities and potentialities are very interesting to me…given all the documented, yet hard-to-believe things that people have done (see Mind Over Matter page), and inexplicable healings, I do not dismiss stories of materialization as utterly impossible. Take these words of physicist Max Planck (pre introduction of Gregg Braden’s The Divine Matrix):
“All matter originates and exist only by virtue of a force…We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.” Max Planck, 1944
The famous physicist David Bohm summarizes his understanding of nature/reality as the Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement with the universe constantly changing from implicate to explicate existence…John Wheeler further stated that this constant changing is continually responding to consciousness (Braden, p. xiii-xiv).
To me, the views of these renowned scientists support the idea that we can consciously draw forth from the matrix within which we live, that which we need and desire—like Jesus did. No, I’ve never seen anyone do such a thing….but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done! And remember, Jesus did say that we would one day do the things he did and more (John 14:12).
The idea of our supply being ever available doesn’t have much practical application as of yet, but it should color your perspective a little as you think about conservation and the good habits discussed on this site. Recycling and the other things discussed on that page can be seen as “doing what you need to do while seeking to know what you need to know (Polly Berends said this in one of her books-I can’t find it now!) They are important practices for now, but also important is to remember that God/the Universe provides…in traditional ways and in ways that most of us haven’t discovered yet!